Old photographs of Greece, taken between 1903 and 1920
May 20, 2013 2:21 PM   Subscribe

59 marvelous photographs taken between 1903 and 1920 by Frédéric Boissonnas (1858-1946), a franco-Swiss photographer who loved Greece. This is him being hauled up to the Meteora monastery in a net. Boissonnas was also a mountaineer and was the first to scale Mt. Olympus successfully in 1913. During the first 30 years of the 20th century he became the most influential photographer in Greece, between the two World Wars. Traveling extensively, landscapes, everyday people and life in Greece were photographed in detail for the first time.

Captions in English for those who do not have Google page Translate:

1. Athens, Plaka, 1920
2. Parthenon, 1908
3. Sheep under the Acropolis, 1903
4. View of the Acropolis from the thiseio, 1920
5. Street, Athens Athena, 1920
6. Athens, Ermou 1920
7. Kifissia, 1920
8. Andritsena market, 1903
9. Andritsena, interior house, 1903
10. Men in the way of Andritsainas 1903
11. Crete, smooth, 1911
12. Crete, home interior, 1911
13. Crete, the brothers Mandaka village Laki 1911
14. Crete, interior house in village of Lakki, 1911
15. The picking of the olives in Crete Prevelis, 1911
16. Crete, courtyard house, 1919
17. Meteora, Magadha, 1908
18. Meteora, climb FRED BOISSONNAS with basket, 1908
19. Zemeno Corinth family priest 1903
20. Zemeno Corinth, Fred and Daniel clink glasses with the drivers of their animals, 1903
21. Family at Zemeno Corinth, 1903
22. Zemeno Corinth, the family of the priest 1913
23. Extreme, courtyards 1903
24. Dale Arcadia, 1903
25. Athos, the Great Lavra, 1929
26. Athos monastery of Vatopedi, 1929
27. Itinerary to Mount Athos, 1928-1930
28. Itinerary to Mount Athos, 1928-1930
29. Kerkyra on super, 1903
30. Gastoyri Corfu, the source of the Empress Elizabeth, 1903
31. Celebrations in Corfu Gastoyri, 1903
32. Olympus, the "Pantheon", 1914
33. Olympus camp fodder, 1914
34. KOKKINOPOULOU, minor, 1913
35. Shepherds at the top of Parnassus, 1903
36. Amorgos, women, 1911
37. Mill on Maroneia 1911
38. Ios, the grave of Homer 1918
39. Edessa, 1908
40. Musty Kastoria, inside the mansion, 1911
41. Macedonia, winnowing, 1911
42. Macedonia, sentry outpost in 1913
43. Men and dogs in the street Ioannina Preveza, 1913
44. Delvinaki Ioannina notables 1913
45. Kavalari Zagoria, lad, 1913
46. Metsovo, 1913
47. Metsovo, on tap, 1913
48. Baya (Gardens) Zagoria woman 1913
49. Konitsa Mesogefyra, 1913
50. Mesogefyra Konitsas, villagers 1913
51. Ioannina, the lake with the castle, 1913
52. The bridge of Arta, 1913
53. Parga, 1913
54. Paramithia, butchers, 1913
55. Paramithia 1913
56. Paramithia house Riga, 1913
57. Castri Preveza Priest in war-ravaged church, 1913
58. Filiates, country, 1913
59. Filiates, country, 1913

More photographs by Fred Boissonnas in the Corbis archive | in Wikimedia Commons | in Luminous Lint | on Corfu Benitses | VM designblog Global | on FaceBook.

A collection of his work to be viewed in real life can be found at the Photography Museum of Thessaloniki

Not a single car in sight.
posted by nickyskye (19 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Amazing and inspiring photos. I suppose people will look at photos taken today with as much curiosity and wonder but I can't help but interpret the photos as depicting a kind of purity absent in modern life. Thanks for the great FPP.
posted by anewnadir at 2:48 PM on May 20, 2013

My folks are going to love these. Thanks!
posted by vrakatar at 3:19 PM on May 20, 2013

Fantastic. I can't tell you how much I love old photos like this—I usually go for city scenes, but hell, this is Greece, it's all magical. (I've been to some of those places and wish I'd been to all of them.) Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 3:20 PM on May 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Superb find, nicky - thank you! And thanks so much for the captions.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:53 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I treasure pictures like these, coming from a time and place that had been touched only lightly by industrialism. The styles of dress no doubt had changed a lot, but the landscape, the cityscape, the textures of life must look very much as they did 500 or 1000 years before.

It is like time travel, but with fewer paradoxes.
posted by General Tonic at 4:56 PM on May 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Simply amazing.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:27 PM on May 20, 2013

posted by dougzilla at 6:53 PM on May 20, 2013

Mod note: Here's a contemporary photo of the same block of Ermou Street as seen in #6, "Athens, Ermou 1920" pic from here. I really like that the cities here build around and preserve the old churches. (Info on the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea seen in these images.)

Here's a tiny little chapel on Mitropoleos Street, close to Ermou Street, that has been preserved under a large office building. Interesting info on the chapel here.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:49 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century was the loss of native dress world wide. Way to go globalization!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:00 AM on May 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

nickyskye, what does the inscription say on the sign in #30?
posted by HotToddy at 7:28 AM on May 21, 2013

HotToddy, it says in Greek, Γαστούρι Κέρκυρας, στην πηγή της αυτοκράτειρας Ελισάβετ, 1903, which translates as "The source of the Empress Elizabeth in Gastouri, Corfu, 1903". What it means is that there is a source of a spring, you know, fresh water bubbling up from the ground, named Empress Elizabeth source. It's in a small village called Gastouri, on the island of Corfu. The picture was taken in 1903.

This is what that same spring source looks like today.

On the Greek islands a spring or water source would be highly valued, as fresh drinking water was/is not easily available. The women would collect water from the source in containers and bring it to their homes by hand.
posted by nickyskye at 9:32 AM on May 21, 2013

This is what that same spring source looks like today.

Sorry for the derail, but what the heck is going on with that video? Is the guy taping it using some sort of steadycam harness or something?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:43 AM on May 21, 2013

HotToddy, I realized just now you meant what does the sign in the picture say. It says ΠΗΓΗ Αυτοκράτειρα Ελισάβετ, Empress Elizabeth Source.
ΠΗΓΗ = source (piyi)
Αυτοκράτειρα = Empress (aftokráteira)
Ελισάβετ = Elizabeth (elisavet)
posted by nickyskye at 5:51 AM on May 22, 2013

Yes, I meant the sign in the picture. Thank you, and thanks for this post, it was wonderful!
posted by HotToddy at 7:17 AM on May 22, 2013

Okay, wait, one more question. At first I thought the frilly white "skirts" (sorry, I'm sure there's a real name for them but I don't know what) on the men must be ceremonial dress, but now looking at some of the additional links I'm not so sure. They seem wildly impractical, even for ceremonial dress. Do you know what they're called and what they're for?
posted by HotToddy at 7:24 AM on May 22, 2013

posted by languagehat at 7:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks for answering that languagehat.

Pleased this post was well liked HotToddy. That's always a nice feeling.

One of the things that jumped out for me in photo #56 was how much the traditional Greek costumes looked remarkably similar to those of two distinct tribal groups in North West India.

I was surprised about the Greek woman's hat, which looked Ladakhi. The Ladhaki women's outfit in Ladakh, a Tibetan-Indian province.

Also the Greek fustanella looks like the men's Gaddi shepherd outfit (called a chola) of the Himalayan kingdom of Chamba.

I suppose when Alexander the Great's army came that way about 1690 years ago, some of the clothing traditions stayed behind?
posted by nickyskye at 11:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some passionate discussion and lots and lots of photos of fustanella here.
posted by HotToddy at 7:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh wow HotToddy, that is a fascinating discussion. Thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 6:17 AM on May 23, 2013

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